Tuesday, February 16

High School Chemistry - Apologia vs. Berean Builders

Choosing a high school chemistry course was one of the most important decisions we made for our juniors.  One of them knew he wanted to go into a scientific field....and we knew that we (the parents) were not chemistry-minded!  The other one just wanted to get through the required course.  After talking to parents, poking through curriculum at conventions, and trying out a few, we finally settled on these two.  We're usually all about saving money....so why would we spend money on two different curricula?

About the Courses

Apologia - Exploring Creation with Chemistry
This college-prep course is designed to give your student an excellent foundation. The accompanying high-quality spiral-bound notebook is essential for successful independent study. A daily schedule is included in the student workbook to keep students on track. Additionally, lab report pages enable students to document their lab work in a manner that prepares them for college labs.

Textbook & Solutions Manual
Student Notebook
Instructional DVD (optional)
Audiobook (optional)

Berean Builders - Discovering Design with Chemistry
This independent-study, college-prep course covers fundamental aspects of chemistry. Weaving together concepts and their mathematical applications, the course teaches students how to think as a chemist so they can analyze the major changes that occur in matter.  The accompanying student workbook helps students document their studies.

Student Workbook
Digital Labs (optional)
Audiobook (optional)

Comparing the Courses

  • Berean Builders has comprehension questions built right into the text, so that the student can easily reference the region of the chapter if they have difficulty.  These answers can be found at the end of each chapter.
  • Apologia has two full pages of comprehension questions at the end of each chapter, along with the answers (not on the same page).  This makes it more difficult to find the answer if there is a struggle.

  • Berean Builders has a student notebook with comprehension questions.  This is a new addition to the course, and we have been using a separate notebook for taking notes, doing lab reports, and answering questions.
  • Apologia has a student notebook with a course schedule, comprehension questions, two sets of practice problems, note-taking pages, and lab pages for every experiment from the text.

  • Berean Builders is considerably more visual when it comes to illustrating concepts.  If you have a visual learner, this is a huge factor to consider.
  • Apologia has a lot of text and more text description of concepts, but is not nearly as visual.

  • Berean Builders has recorded instruction overview and labs that are available to stream with vimeo.
  • Apologia has a DVD of instruction that covers exactly what is in the text and the experiments.

  • Berean Builders has the tests built into the test book (you can make a copy of them for your student), along with review solutions and test solutions.
  • Apologia  has a separate test booklet for students, with practice problem and test solutions in the answer key.

  • Berean Builders is done at a slightly slower pace, and the concepts are broken down more.  It is still rigorous and college-prep, but could be a better fit for the student that needs more explanation or struggles with math.
  • Apologia is very fast-paced and math-based, plus it includes more stoichiometry.

  • Both courses should be completed once the student has completed Algebra I.
  • Both require an additional lab kit to perform experiments.
  • Both have extra 'helps' on their respective publisher websites.

Peek Inside & Conclusion


Berean Builders

Either of these chemistry courses will prepare your student to upper level studies, but which one works best is going to depend on your child's learning style and strengths.  If you have a visual learner or one that needs more assistance, Berean Builders is probably a better fit.  If you have one that loves math and learns through text, Apologia is probably a better fit.  We have one child that falls into each category, and for this particular course - though it is highly unusual for us! - we sprung for different course materials for this reason.

**We didn't receive any compensation for this post.  It just took us forever to find a good fit and we're hoping to help other families do it in a fraction of the time!**

Enroll your student in the teacher-led co-op class, using Berean Builders Chemistry, through Sparks Academy!  (There is also a self-paced option.)

This one year course will introduce students to the concepts of chemistry. This is a high school chemistry course designed for students who have completed Algebra I. This independent-study, college-preparatory course covers fundamental aspects of chemistry such as the classification of matter, atomic structure, spectroscopy, chemical bonding, molecular geometry, physical change, chemical change, stoichiometry, solutions, ideal gases, acid/base chemistry, reduction/oxidation reactions, thermochemistry, thermodynamics, kinetics, and chemical equilibrium. Weaving together concepts and their mathematical applications, the course teaches students how to think as a chemist so they can analyze the major changes that occur in matter.

Classes will include teacher-led instruction, facilitated discussions, demonstrated labs, and an overview of the coming week’s lessons.  Students will also have the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, discuss the class material, and ask questions.  Additional activities may be suggested to help reinforce the learning, but are not required.  Course lessons are pre-recorded, with weekly, facilitated interaction occurring through a private discussion feed.  Students will be able to digitally show off lab results as well.

Sparks Academy does provide an official grade for students.  This covers feedback on discussions, the lab report, and online unit quizzes. You may enroll up to two kids from the same household in same class at same time.  The second student is deeply discounted through the Second Student option.

You can learn more about how the course will work, and other available courses, at Sparks Academy.



  1. I know Dr. Wile originally wrote the Apologia textbook, but not the newest edition. He is pretty scathing in his review of it and I've heard many parents say the science is flawed. I know Dr. Wile is the author of the Berean course. Do you find the two contradict each other for content?

    1. I haven't seen any contradictions yet, but with each of the boys doing one set (and them reading considerably more closely than mom, who reviews their work), it is possible. I might sit down this weekend with one chapter from each and really go through it finely to specifically look for that. One thing that has popped up just this week with Apologia, after I wrote this review, is that we are really having trouble with their solutions manual. It insufficiently explains the answers...just gives them (and it wasn't doing that before, just started toward the end of the book) and we're flying blind as to how they are doing some of the stuff. I have reached out to the company.

  2. when you have a chance to look through them, can you let me know? I was considering this for the lad next year.

    1. Here's Dr. Wile's comparisons. But since I don't have either in hand yet, I can't confirm any of it. I'll probably go with Wile, based on this review though. My boys need more visual and the slower pace. https://blog.drwile.com/?s=apologia+chemistry


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